For some reason those of us here at WEIT—well, at least Matthew and I—are fascinated by optical illusions, crypsis, and other things that fool the eye. Well, we now have the Motherlode of Illusions: the ten 2016 finalists for Best Illusion of the Year Contest from the Neural Correlate Society. You can see them all at the site, and should, but I’ll put my favorite three here along with the notes from the site:
Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion
– Kokichi Sugihara: “Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion”. Meiji University, Japan
The direct views of the objects and their mirror images generate quite different interpretations of the 3D shapes. They look like vertical cylinders, but their sections appear to be different; in one view they appear to be rectangles, while in the other view they appear to be circles. We cannot correct our interpretations although we logically know that they come from the same objects. Even if the object is rotated in front of a viewer, it is difficult to understand the true shape of the object, and thus the illusion does not disappear.
Didn’t help me much: I still don’t know what shape those damn things are!
A New Illusion at Your Elbow
– Peter Brugger and Rebekka Meier: “A New Illusion At Your Elbow”. University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland
Move your finger slowly along a person’s forearm from the wrist towards the elbow crook – eyes closed, the person will anticipate touch in the elbow crook. This illusory anticipation may rest on our experience of tactile velocities that are usually much faster and make us believe we feel touch at a body location not yet reached. Neural characteristics of skin receptors specialized for slow motion may also contribute to the anticipation error. Like previously described illusions, the elbow crook illusion is larger on the non-dominant arm. Women showed a smaller illusion than men, confirming their reportedly superior cutaneous sensitivity.
You’ll surely want to try this yourself, but you can’t do it on yourself. Find a willing helper and report below. Malgorzata and I tried this on each other, and we both said “stop” 2-3 inches below the crook of the arm,
– Arthur G. Shapiro : “Remote Controls ”. American University, USA
Two physically identical rectangular bars become light and dark at the same time, but in some conditions they look as if they wink in alternation. The appearance of winking (alternating) or blinking (bars in sync) can be controlled by rectangles placed in the vicinity of the modulating bars: the bars blink when the rectangles are far away or adjacent to the bars but wink when there is a gap between the bars and the rectangles. The effect is remarkable because of the sudden change from wink to blink or vice versa, and because the change can occur across large distances.
h/t: David S.